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In this painting of Robert Walpole by John Theodore Heins Robert is painted with a crown on his right. Robert Walpole is according to Wikipedia "a British politician who is generally regarded as the de facto first Prime Minister of Great Britain".

pictured above : Portrait of Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745) Earl of Orford, painted by John Theodore Heins (1697-1756) followed by a close-up of the crown. attributed to Norwich Castle / Public domain

When looking at a portrait of him I noticed a crown on his right which looked odd to me since Walpole certainly wasn't royalty and the way this portrait is painted reminded me of royal portraits, like for example the portraits of his contemporaries George I and George II which use many of the same elements:

George I and George II both monarchs during Walpole's time as Prime Minister displayed in a similar way. George I - Studio of Godfrey Kneller / Public domain. George II - Thomas Hudson / Public domain

So my question is : Why did Robert Walpole get painted with a crown on his right side?

I have searched a lot on the Internet but with no avail, am I missing something obvious here or is the answer a little more nuanced?

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    It is not a crown. It's a coronet, part of an Earl's regalia. Robert Walpole was 1st Earl of Orford. – sempaiscuba Sep 14 at 9:54
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    @TomSol - your chances of getting an answer are stronger if you put that in the question rather than in comments. – Mark C. Wallace Sep 14 at 10:25
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    @Tom Sol I am shocked, shocked (as Captain Ranault said in Casablanca) that when you saw a picture of an earl with a crown beside him you didn't think to look up what sort of regalia earls might have. Taht seems unimaginative of you. – MAGolding Sep 15 at 3:16
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    @TomSol See, for example, my answer at: reddit.com/r/heraldry/comments/ipmqr9/could_we_help_op_out – MAGolding Sep 15 at 4:04
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    The updated question with the links to the kings' pictures, really highlights the difference between a coronet and a crown. Nice revision – Mark C. Wallace Sep 15 at 12:43
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The painting shows Robert Walpole in his full regalia as First Earl of Orford. The "crown" is not, in fact technically a crown, but rather a coronet, which forms part of that regalia.

The Wikipedia article includes a series of images depicting the coronets for various British coronet rankings. I have reproduced the image of an Earl's coronet below:

Earl's coronet (Click to enlarge)


The portraits of King George I and King George II that you have added for comparison also show them with their royal regalia, including their crowns, orb, and sceptre.

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    Smallish on language: your own link says "A coronet is a small crown…". Is it 'Not all crowns are created equal', or sth like that you want to transport? – LаngLаngС Sep 14 at 10:53
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    @LаngLаngС Technically, as the link from that sentence in the Wikipedia article observes, "A crown is a traditional symbolic form of head adornment worn by a monarch or by a deity". Walpole was neither, being merely a (de facto) Prime Minister. So it's clearly not a "crown", although in common parlance (particularly among Wikipedia editors? ;-) ) the word is used more broadly. – sempaiscuba Sep 14 at 10:58
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    Am not a WP-editor, but as 'they' define a corona/crest as worn by "rulers" and then "kings" (cf. dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/crown) that seems incongruous to "circular headdress" of often precious materials. The symbol "crown" is much wider in meaning as 'the ruling king's' cf fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Couronne_(attribut). It clearly 'is a crown', just 'not a royal crown', despite as obvious from this question often associated in that form with kings only, not just lower forms of aristocracy? (Have we a Q for practice of barons wearing what their heraldry shows?) – LаngLаngС Sep 14 at 11:55
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    @LаngLаngС Well, this is an English language site, so I'm using the English definitions (while noting the Latin origins of the word), and as the Cambridge Dictionary you linked notes, it is a head-dress worn by a king or queen. One "crowns" a king or a queen by the symbolic act of placing the crown upon their head. One does not "crown" a Duke, a Marquess, an Earl, a Viscount, or a Baron by placing a coronet on theirs. And yes, I agree that in common parlance the word is used much less precisely, but isn't precision something we should be striving for here? – sempaiscuba Sep 14 at 12:17
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    For an additional comparison, this gallery of portraits shows peers of various ranks in the formal robes and regalia, many with their respective coronets to their side. – Andrew Sep 14 at 13:18

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